Dir. Dominik Graf. Ger. 2006.128mins.
Sharply pitched between funny, rueful memory andcautionary tale about compromise and lost promise, DominikGraf's The Red Cockatoo confronts thetime when sex, art and American rock and roll collided with crude ideologicalpolitics.
The latest production from XFilme Creative Pool, it conflates the themes andstyle of its two internationally best known titles, Run Lola Run and Good Bye,Lenin!. Aided by a sharp, attractive cast andconvincing period recreation, Graf locates the humour, recognition and sadnessinherent in the historical tumult and trauma of Germany's modern history.
The Red Cockatoo should play well in Germany - after its Panorama Special premiere at theBerlinale - and other markets in Europe that welcomedLola and Lenin. The frequent use of rock and roll may pique the interest ofsome US distributors.
Graf draws on an unorthodoxlove triangle to underline his engaging balance of pop art and social criticism,unfurling a funny, painful look at the ideological divide between East andWest.
The story unfolds in thespring and summer 1961, at the height of the Cold War tensions that dividedGermany, marked by mass defections to the West and a crippling loss of freedomin the East.
The title refers to apopular music club and dance hall that illustrates the conflict, with the youngavid for Western music and the old guard demanding Soviet collectivist folkart.
The movie's hero andprotagonist, Siggi (Riemelt),who also narrates, is a young, blond, virginal square who is studying theatreproduction in Dresden. Avid for experience and adventure, he becomesintoxicated by the beautiful free spirited poet and romantic Luise (Schwarz) and Wolle (Zehrfeld), a confidante of her husband and a loquacious,good-looking Lothario.
The film runs like a morepopulist The Unbearable Lightness Of Being, turning into a mediation on art, sex andpersonal choice against a backdrop of encroaching state pressure and politicalcoercion.
Graf has a cunning sense ofhumour, finding the ridiculousness and pessimistic black humour of thesituation without denying the personal cost of its victims.
However, the pacing provessomewhat sluggish and unwieldy in places, and Graf does not always shape thework dramatically; a frustration given how exciting and thrilling the sourcematerial is. The plot also involves a late revelation about an informer thatunbalances the tone and style.
But Graf demonstrates amarvellous ease and resourcefulness with his cast, and excellent contributionsfrom Riemelt, Schwarz and Zehrfeldground the work emotionally, finding a humanity and freshness at a time ofmadness and desperation.
Bavaria Film International
X Filme Creative Pool
Bavaria Film International
Claus Jurgen Pfeiffer